Bustamante was born as William Alexander Clarke. His father was an Irish -born farm workers, his mother had African and European ancestors. According to his own statement the name Bustamante of an Iberian captain comes with whom he was a friend in his youth. He also claimed that his mother was a Taino.
In 1905 he left Jamaica and traveled the Caribbean and the United States. In Cuba, he worked as a police officer in New York as a dietitian. In 1932 he returned to the island and became the leader of a resistance movement against British colonial administration in the sequence. For the first time he drew attention to himself as the author of several letters to the newspaper Daily Gleaner. In 1937 he was treasurer of the Jamaica Workers' Union. During the 1938er Work Out article he was speaker of the striking workers, from the Worker's Union, the Bustamante Industrial Trade Union Industrial Union, Bustamante was itself to The Chief. He was involved at this time also in the founding of the People's National Party ( PNP).
In 1940 he was arrested and held until 8 February 1942 for " subversive activities " trapped. After his release, he founded the Jamaica Labour Party ( JLP ). In fact, together with the PNP managed a constitutional reform that guaranteed universal suffrage from 1944. At the first election, the JLP won 27 of 32 possible seats. Bustamante was the unofficial head of government and in 1953 finally Chief Minister.
1955 lost his party the majority, his former friend Norman Washington Manley relieved him as Chief Minister. As a member of the opposition he was able to prevent the accession of Jamaica to the West Indian Federation by a referendum.
Jamaica became independent in 1962 from Britain. In the elections at the beginning of the year, Bustamante could gain the upper hand again. As the first Prime Minister he remained until 1967, in office. In 1969 he was appointed Manley one of the seven official national hero of the island.